Hot air balloon disrupts flights

The poor weather prevented any balloon flying during the 6th Montgolfiades weekend here in Geneva. Somewhere near London Gatwick airport one did fly and cause trouble.


It was last Friday, 13 April (an unlucky day) when two hot air balloons got into trouble in England. One of these was spotted flying somewhere near Gatwick airport, but foggy weather prevented attempts to localise it. As a result, several departures just after 9am were delayed until it was sure that the balloon was no longer a danger.

Here in Geneva all balloon flights during the 6th Montgolfiades had to be cancelled because of bad weather (low cloud and a northerly (black bise) wind, so there was no chance of any similar disruption. Admirers of these balloons did have the chance to see them inflated and lit up at the airport late on Friday night.

Since March 2008 it has been mandatory in some parts of Europe for these balloons to fly with transponders, which can report their presence, identity, height and even their position. This rule applies to what are called "Transponder Mandatory Zones": it would equally apply to other types of aircraft, in particular light aircraft and helicopters.

When there was a similar event in Geneva late on the night of September 5, 2009, the balloons did indeed fly with an operating transponder, so that all could be identified. Since then, however, although many have flown near Geneva we have detected no other balloons. This seems to imply that the control zone around Geneva airport is not such a mandatory zone: a fact confirmed by the absence of detectable emissions from many helicopters and light training aircraft flying in the Geneva Control Zone (CTR).

In consequence, if the balloons had been able to fly and we had been overflown by them we would not have been able to identify them and check their altitude.

Just like many helicopters!

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